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YWCA Canada’s programs help women at risk take the necessary steps to enter the workforce.


Challenges started to pile up when Sarah White lost her job due to missed work during her high-risk pregnancy. They seemed insurmountable when the single mother tried to re-enter the job market after her maternity leave. Participating in Step Ahead, an employment program at the YWCA Halifax, enabled Ms. White to secure permanent full-time employment – it also provided her with a new outlook on life.

“I no longer feel like I cannot succeed. I learned about who I am as a woman and mother and what my skill set is,” she says. “I am now working full time. I am off income assistance and have recently been able to move into my own apartment with my son.”

Over two-thirds of the participants of the YWCA Halifax’s employment programs find permanent work, says Brighid Langill, the organization’s director of philanthropy and communications. “The women’s success is a testament to their determination,” she says. “While each brings unique challenges, which can include mental health concerns, language and culture barriers, a lack of education, work experience and child care, the goal is the same – to improve her and her family’s future.”

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The path to a desirable job, which many Canadians take for granted, can seem out of reach for community members at risk, says Maya Roy, CEO of YWCA Canada. “When people are socially isolated, perhaps because they are new to the country, living with addiction or in abusive relationships, they don’t have the same network and support.”

For all Canadians to have a high quality of life, it is important to support our most vulnerable and marginalized community members ...

— Maya Roy, CEO of YWCA Canada

Philanthropy – and Canadian donors and volunteers – can help to bridge the gaps and enable women to reach the next rung of the ladder that gets them closer to entering the workforce, explains Ms. Roy. “Building bridges to employment is about facilitating the transition from surviving to thriving.”

Two initiatives, In Good Company and Born to Be Bold, supported by the RBC Foundation and the federal government respectively, allow the YWCA to amplify its impact on advancing awareness and economic participation as well as to produce research on labour market inclusion. “For all Canadians to have a high quality of life, it is important to support our most vulnerable and marginalized community members and ensure they have access to the workforce,” says Ms. Roy.

Its strong 149-year history of supporting women and their families allows the YWCA to take a holistic approach, says Donna Snair, director of programs at the YWCA Halifax. “As a multi-service agency, we are able to meet many of the women’s needs, from housing and child care to peer support and mentoring,” she says. “We support women at all stages of their life.”

Ms. Roy adds, “We often talk about women leaning in, and we absolutely embrace that. But we also need the wrap-around support to ensure that when they do lean in, they are not going to fall.”

Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.

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